Global environmental challenges
Taiwan seeks to participate in U.N. climate convention
Taiwan, hit by its worst typhoon in 50 years in August, has found a culprit for the disaster that killed about 770 people and begun using it to get precious attention overseas where the island is usually overlooked in favour of its giant political rival China.
Global warming is taking blame for Morakot, which was freakish as Taiwan’s only major typhoon of the year and because it lingered instead of blowing straight through. The island’s foreign ministry says that as global warming’s victim it should get to participate in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in time for its December talks in Copenhagen. Sixteen countries have already voiced support.
“We are a victim of this problem. It’s closely related to the public’s economic interests,” said Yang Kuo-tung, director general of the foreign ministry’s treaties and legal affairs. Morakot’s incessant rain caused agricultural losses of T$16.47 billion ($510 million). ”It’s no laughing matter.”
But Taiwan’s bid for participation faces a new kind of storm despite recent detente with China, a powerful veto-wielding Security Council member. China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949 and blocked more than a decade worth of applications to enter the United Nations on grounds that the self-ruled island lacks statehood.
Taiwan dropped an the annual bid to join the whole United Nations this year to avoid upsetting China, but figures that knocking at the door of a small U.N. agency would cause little stir, especially with the woes of Morakot in its back pocket. Taiwan would both teach and learn as a Convention participant, Yang said.
But although China-Taiwan ties have improved via trade talks since mid-2008, officials in Beijing have resisted opening international organisations to Taiwan. Unless it whips up a powerful public relations storm that generates the kind of populist momentum at home and abroad that followed Taiwan’s colourful, music and video-enhanced U.N. bids, the island won’t make it for the Copenhagen talks and may wait up to two years before it can participate in the Convention, political analysts say.
“I don’t think ordinary people know about this organisation,” said Alex Chiang, international politics associate professor at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “You have to let other people know we’re qualified for participation. That’s the job for the government, telling people about it. They haven’t done much for public relations.”
((Pictures — Top right: Motorcyclists stop at an intersection in Taipei September 23, 2009. Taiwan is known as the one of the highest motorbike-density country in the world and motorbikes are responsible for a big share of Taiwan’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to local media. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang. Left: Damaged buildings are seen after Typhoon Morakot swept Kaohsiung county, southern Taiwan August 11, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer))